An anthropological assessment of Neanderthal behavioural energetics

Shuttleworth, Andy
An anthropological assessment of Neanderthal behavioural energetics. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The debate on Neanderthal social and symbolic capabilities is one of the fundamental issues of Palaeolithic archaeology, with the archaeological record suggesting that Neanderthals did not display the same range and variability of behaviours as anatomically modern humans (AMH). This lack of evidence has often been attributed to the cognitive superiority of AMH over Neanderthals. The reliance on the material record alone, however, neglects a range of non-material behaviours that are arguably of equal importance to understanding the cognitive abilities of this species, but which leave no archaeological traces. This thesis presents an alternative approach to the interpretation of Neanderthal social behaviour that is based on ethnographic modelling drawn from contemporary hunter-gatherers and applied to the archaeological records of Neanderthals and AMH living in Europe during Oxygen Isotope Stage 3 (60-30ka). The aim of this thesis is to highlight Neanderthal behavioural responses to fluctuations in environmental productivity and to compare these to the behaviours of AMH in the earlier Upper Palaeolithic to determine if any significant differences existed between the two species. The thesis employs a range of ethnographic and archaeological data which relate to a range of material and non-material social and symbolic behavioural expressions, such a rites of passage, cooperative hunting, care for the elderly, and prestige hierarchies that are not typically inferred from the archaeological record. The ethnographic record allows for the quantification of such behaviours so that correlations can be made between social expressions (cohesion, control etc) that can then be inferred from the material record. Statistical tests, including General Linear Modelling, were employed to determine the robustness of these correlations. The ethnographic model was applied to the archaeological record of the Upper Palaeolithic prior to its being applied to the Neanderthal record of OIS-3 to determine the suitability of applying it to prehistoric contexts. Results show that both Neanderthals and AMH employed similar behavioural mechanisms for coping with resource stress in relation to social cohesion, though individual expressions varied between the two species depending on their environmental contexts. Analysis suggests that the Neanderthal capacity for spiritual and material expression was hindered by demographic and physiological constraints rather than any differences in cognitive capacity. Finally, analysis shows that Neanderthals employed optimal behavioural capacities throughout the Middle Palaeolithic and were a much more behaviourally variable hominid than previous interpretations of the archaeological record have suggested.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2013-04 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Neanderthal, Symbolism, Social Behaviour
Subjects: ?? CC ??
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Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2013 10:47
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:39
DOI: 10.17638/00010975